Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Good, the Bad, and the Indifferent

This is what I love about my new Kindle e-reader:

1)The coverage map was wrong! I am in a Whispernet coverage area after all, it seems, which means I can have any book or periodical I order delivered to my Kindle within a minute. I know! I couldn't believe it, either! So I kept ordering, and ordering...
2)The price. Much has been said, of course, about the 9.99 best seller, but I am only moderately impressed by this. After all, Amazon.com has been selling 27.95 hardcover bestsellers for $13-$15 for years. What I love are the $2.00-$3.00 mysteries and suspense/thrillers, the $1.49 per month magazine subscriptions, the 75-cent Sunday New York Times. Moreover, many authors are giving away their back list titles for $00.00, presumably to generate interest in their new releases- a terrific promotional idea that I just might try myself!
3)Portability. The Kindle slips into my purse as easily as a day planner and takes up a lot less room, so if I have a few minutes to spare while waiting to meet a friend or sitting in the dentist's office, I always have something to read.
4)Audio books. I listen to an awful lot of audio books. Books on CD are expensive and bulky to store, and trying to change a CD while jogging or driving is, well, inconvenient to say the least. I've recently begun downloading audio books to my Ipod, which has worked out fine, but, now that I have a choice, it's much more convenient to have all my books stored on one device.
5) Speaking of audio, I love the text-to-speech feature. Admittedly, text-to-speech is rarely enabled for new titles, and the voice is a close relative of the one that narrates your GPS, but you can slow down or speed up the voice for clarity, and talk about convenience! Now you can continue reading your book without actually reading it.
6)Free samples. You can read the first chapter of a book or try a periodical for fourteen days at no charge. Brilliant.
7) Adjustable font sizes. This is huge for eyes as tired (and as old) as mine.
8) The bookmark feature. I know this is not particularly clever or inventive, but every time I
click on a book, I am taken back to the last page I read, even if I have two or three books going at once. That's nice.

What I don't like about my new toy:

1) No color! I know the greyscale/electronic ink is easier on the eyes than reading a computer screen (or, so they say, actual print on paper) , but I find reading black on grey depressing, and wonder if it will eventually shadow my enjoyment of the reading experience--especially when I can't flip to the color cover to give my brain a break.
2) Speaking of flipping, I can't get used to not being able to flip forward to see how many pages I have left in a chapter-- or in the book. There is a small counter at the bottom of the screen that marks your progress, but it's not the same. This makes for a very different reading experience.
3) I found holding the reader to be uncomfortable and unintuitive--books have two sides, right? So I actually made a cover for my Kindle (they sell much nicer ones) so that I can hold it in two hands like a real book.
4) The Biggie: Too much information! I spent all day Sunday reading newspapers from around the country. Why? Because I could. I downloaded more books than I would ever purchase if I went into a bookstore and had to physically carry them to the check-out counter (my one rule of thumb having always been: if you can't carry your purchases, you've probably spent too much) . Who has time to read that much? I know I don't. But there is great comfort in knowing that if I ever do get time, books are waiting.

In summation:

Will my e-reader replace print books for me? Not a chance. Audio books did not replace print books, either, but I enjoy them both. The e-reader is a supplement, not a substitute; a convenience, not a necessity. Do I absolutely, positively desperately need one? Well, no. I didn't actually need an Ipod either, but every time I get on the treadmill and crank up the music, I sure am glad I have it. I suspect the Kindle will be the same, once the novelty wears off. It will have its uses, even if they're limited. It won't change my life, but I think I'll always be glad I have it.

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